Haben Girma – The Inspiring Story of the First Deaf-Blind Woman to Graduate from Harvard Law School

A Black, Deaf-Blind woman who graduated from Harvard Law School created history. Haben Girma, a lawyer, activist, and public speaker born and raised in California fights to include people with disabilities. Her accomplishments have inspired a lot of individuals all over the world. She received her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2013, becoming the first Deaf-blind graduate. However, Lila Fenwick was the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Law School in 1956.


My mom is blind, so I have experience working with a visually impaired person. I also have a degree in ASL-English Interpreting from Columbia College Chicago. During my practicum, I worked with a Deaf-blind client at the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind, and it was the most rewarding experience I have ever done. After reading about Haben Girma graduating from Havard Law school, I was in awe-She is a true superhero! Her story is remarkable, and one everyone should know about.

Haben Girma’s Background and Usher Syndrome Diagnosis

Haben was diagnosed from birth with Usher syndrome, a hereditary disorder that results in gradual hearing and vision loss. She started losing her vision at an early age and lost her hearing soon after. Despite these obstacles, Haben was determined to succeed and follow her aspirations.

She attended neighborhood schools in California before enrolling in Portland, Oregon’s Lewis & Clark College classes. She earned a sociology/anthropology degree magna cum laude. She then decided to go back to school for law and submitted an application to Harvard Law School, one of the most renowned legal schools in the world.

Applying and Attending Harvard Law School as a Deaf-blind Student

Haben had a lot of issues while attending Harvard Law School because of the institution’s limited accessibility for Deaf-Blind students. She worked closely with the school to ensure her requirements were met since she was determined to succeed. She developed her study methods to compensate for her weaknesses and relied on a group of note-takers and interpreters to help her get through the coursework and exams.

Notwithstanding these obstacles, Haben achieved academic success and became prominent in the disability rights movement. At Harvard Law School, she worked on several projects to advance disability rights and inclusion, such as the Harvard Law School Project on Disability, which aims to increase accessibility to education for those with impairments.

Haben’s Work in Disability Rights Advocacy and Campaigns for Inclusion at Harvard

Haben worked as a legal clerk at Disability Rights Advocates, a nonprofit law practice that focuses on disability rights, after earning his law degree. She promoted inclusivity and the rights of those with disabilities while she was a student at Harvard Law School. She participated in several campaigns to advance disability rights while a student at Harvard, such as the Harvard Law School Project on Disability, which aims to increase access to education for those with disabilities.

Haben’s Accomplishments as a Public Speaker, Author, and Advocate for Inclusive Technology and Arts

Haben is an accomplished public speaker and writer in addition to her job as an advocate. She has spoken at TEDx gatherings, UN meetings, and White House events. She has additionally been highlighted in periodicals like Forbes and the New York Times. 2019 saw the publication of her memoir, “Haben: The Deaf-Blind Lady Who Conquered Harvard Law,” to ecstatic praise.

Haben Girma
Using a digital device that displays Braille characters, Haben Girma talks with President Obama at a White House ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Haben’s accomplishments serve as a reminder of the value of inclusion and diversity in all spheres of society, including the legal profession. Her story highlights the importance of properly integrating people with disabilities into society. Their varied viewpoints and life experiences might help create a more equitable and inclusive community. According to Haben, having a disability opens up creative possibilities.

Initiatives and advocacy from Haben go beyond the court system. She has collaborated with businesses like Apple and Microsoft to make their products more accessible because she fiercely supports inclusive technology. She argues that it is crucial to make sure that technology is accessible to everyone since it has the potential to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities significantly.

Honors and Awards Received by Haben

For her work and advocacy, Haben has won numerous awards and honors. She was honored as a White House Champion of Change in 2015; in 2016, she was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list in the law and policy category. She also received the Helen Keller Achievement Award from the American Foundation for the Blind and the Superhero Award from the LightHouse for the Blind.


Haben’s graduation from Harvard Law School was a noteworthy achievement and proof of her perseverance and dedication to achieving her goals. She has become an inspiration to individuals with disabilities worldwide thanks to her story, which has helped raise awareness of the challenges faced by Deaf-blind persons in the academic and professional spheres. Her successes demonstrate that anything is achievable if one has tenacity and determination. She is a true pathfinder who breaks down barriers and establishes the framework for a more inclusive and just society.

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